Wednesday, 8 October 2008

U Gambira Ill; Misses Court Date

The Irrawaddy News

Ashin Gambira, the detained leader of the All Burmese Monk’s Alliance (ABMA), did not appear for trial on Monday because of illness, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

The lawyer, Khin Maung Shein, told The Irrawaddy that Ashin Gambira is reportedly sick and receiving medical treatment in Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison hospital.

“We do not know what kind of illnesses he is suffering, but he looked frail during his previous trail and he suffered from nausea,” Khin Maung Shein said.

Ashin Gambira is one of the monks who organized the 2007 pro-democracy uprising. After security forces brutally suppressed peaceful demonstrations on September 26-27, he was arrested and subsequently disrobed by authorities without consultation with the Sangha institution.

Ashin Gambira has been charged with nine separate criminal offenses by the military court. The charges include: State Offence Act 505 A and B, Immigration Act 13/1, Illegal Organization Act 17/1, Electronic Act 303 A and Organization Act 6, generally having to do with threatening the stability of the state.

The ABMA led thousands of monks and civilian protesters in street demonstrations last year in Rangoon and other cities. The military authorities’ bloody crackdown officially left at least 10 people dead, although human rights groups say up to 31 protesters may have been killed while thousands of monks and civilians were arrested and detained.

Meanwhile, relatives of student activists from the 88 Generation Students’ Group who were arrested for their involvement in last year’s protests have asked prison authorities to notify them when a detained family member is scheduled to stand trial.

In late August, the 88 Generation Students’ Group asked military authorities to allow family members to enter the courtroom and to allow a defendant to appear in court without handcuffs and in the presence of witnesses during a court hearing, in accordance with international laws.

Military authorities reportedly agreed to allow family members to enter the courtroom, but the agreement broke down on Friday when some family members were denied access to a courtroom.

“We were ordered by prison authorities on Friday not to come to the court anymore,” said Win Maung, the father of Pyone Cho, a student leader of the 88 Generation Students’ Group. “We are disappointed about this, and we have verbally appealed to the prison authorities to allow us to see our children and friends in prison.”

“We plan to summit an appeal letter if they do not take our informal request seriously,” he said.

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